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2022 Kentucky Derby preview: Is it anyone’s race?

Let’s cut to the chase of the Kentucky Derby.

This year’s 148th running at Churchill Downs on Saturday (6:57 p.m. ET post time) is wide open.

The odds board is relatively tight, a lot of horses have a chance to win and the draw had its usual impact on the field.

So there is a lot to consider this year. Let’s get down to business.

Where’s Bob Baffert?

The sport’s most well-known trainer and six-time Kentucky Derby winner was banned from Churchill Downs for two years because his 2021 Derby winner, Medina Spirit, tested positive for a banned substance. Baffert was forced to forfeit the victory and the prize money, and his absence looms over a weekend he usually dominates.

Who are the favorites?

Zandon, trained by Chad Brown, is the 3-1 favorite and in the 10th position, but in a field this competitive, you are doing yourself no favors by taking a horse with such short odds.

Next up is the Steven Asmussen-trained Epicenter, who is 7-2 and in the third position.

Mo Donegal was a darling to win before the draw came out, but he got the dreaded No. 1 position and he is now 10-1.

What should we worry about?

Well, rain could be an issue. It’s expected to rain for the Kentucky Oaks on Friday and the threat is there for Saturday as well. Frontrunners usually perform well on wet tracks because they aren’t getting mud kicked in their faces, but each horse handles the elements differently. That said, rain isn’t expected to affect Zandon and Epicenter.

Jim McIngvale, aka Mattress Mack, is expected to make a monster wager at some point and that will affect the betting lines. Now, he isn’t a sharp — he just likes wagering huge amounts of money. So expect the odds on one of those chalky horses to lose even more value.

So who do we like?

We want some longer odds in a field this even. We are looking for value here and will lean with some longer shots.

Taiba is formerly trained by Baffert and is a nice value at 12-1. Messier is the other former Baffert horse in the field at 8-1. If you are a believer in Baffert’s products and don’t buy into some of his, um, shadier competitive methods, then these are your horses.

We’re riding with White Abarrio at 10-1 in the No. 15 position. He has speed, has run well lately and doesn’t seem to be fazed by external elements.

Any long shots to consider?

Well, of course, and especially in this field. Smile Happy (20-1) and Cyberknife (20-1) have paths to victory in this race. Smile Happy defeated White Abarrio at the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, and Cyberknife won the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 2.

One horse to consider is Crown Pride (20-1). Crown Pride is Japanese-trained and bred, and has the pedigree to win this race.

He has quirky training methods and is the most unorthodox horse in this field. But one word of warning: If it’s raining or the track is muddy, strike him off the list. He needs a dry track to run his race.

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